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Atenism, or the " Amarna
Amarna
heresy", refers to the religious changes associated with the eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Amenhotep IV, better known under his adopted name, Akhenaten. In the 14th century BC, Atenism
Atenism
was Egypt's state religion for around 20 years, before subsequent rulers returned to the traditional gods and the Pharaohs associated with Atenism
Atenism
were erased from Egyptian records.

Contents

1 History of Aten
Aten
before Akhenaten 2 Atenist revolution 3 Contrast with traditional Egyptian religion 4 Amarna
Amarna
art 5 Decline 6 Link to Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism 7 Atenism
Atenism
in modern culture 8 Literature 9 See also 10 References

History of Aten
Aten
before Akhenaten[edit]

Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Akhenaten
Akhenaten
and his family adoring the Aten

Aten, the god of Atenism, first appears in texts dating to the 12th dynasty, in the Story of Sinuhe. During the Middle Kingdom, Aten
Aten
"as the sun disk...was merely one aspect of the sun god Re."[1] It was a relatively obscure sun god; without the Atenist period, it would barely have figured in Egyptian history. Although there are indications that it was becoming slightly more important during the eighteenth dynasty, notably Amenhotep III's naming of his royal barge as Spirit of the Aten, it was Amenhotep IV
Amenhotep IV
who introduced the Atenist revolution in a series of steps culminating in the official installment of the Aten
Aten
as Egypt's sole god. Although each line of kings prior to the reign of Akhenaten[2] had previously adopted one deity as the royal patron and supreme state god, there had never been an attempt to exclude other deities, and the multitude of gods had always been tolerated and worshipped. During the reign of Thutmosis IV, it was identified as a distinct solar god, and his son Amenhotep III established and promoted a separate cult for the Aten. There is no evidence that Amenhotep III
Amenhotep III
neglected the other gods or attempted to promote the Aten
Aten
as an exclusive deity. Atenist revolution[edit] Amenhotep IV
Amenhotep IV
initially introduced Atenism
Atenism
in the fifth year of his reign (1348/1346 BC), raising Aten
Aten
to the status of supreme god, after having initially permitted continued worship of the traditional gods.[3] To emphasise the change, Aten's name was written in the cartouche form normally reserved for Pharaohs, an innovation of Atenism. The religious reformation appears to coincide with the proclamation of a Sed festival, a sort of royal jubilee intended to reinforce the Pharaoh's divine powers of kingship. Traditionally held in the thirtieth year of the Pharaoh's reign, it possibly was a festival in honour of Amenhotep III. Some Egyptologists think that he had a coregency with Amenhotep IV
Amenhotep IV
of 2-12 years.

The name of god Amun
Amun
was erased, probably during Amarna
Amarna
era of Akhenaten. Detail of stela of Djeserka, a doorkeeper of the Amun temple at Thebes. From Thebes, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

Hieroglyphs on the backpillar of Amenhotep III's statue. There are 2 places where Akhenaten's agents erased the name Amun, later restored on a deeper surface. The British Museum, London

The fifth year is believed to mark the beginning of Amenhotep IV's construction of a new capital, Akhetaten
Akhetaten
(Horizon of the Aten), at the site known today as Amarna. Evidence appears on three of the boundary stelae used to mark the boundaries of this new capital. Then, Amenhotep IV
Amenhotep IV
officially changed his name to Akhenaten
Akhenaten
(Spirit of the Aten) as evidence of his new worship. The date given for the event has been estimated to fall around January 2 of that year. In the seventh year of his reign (1346/1344 BC), the capital was moved from Thebes to Akhetaten, but construction of the city seems to have continued for two more years. In shifting his court from the traditional ceremonial centres, he was signalling a dramatic transformation in the focus of religious and political power. The move separated the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
and his court from the influence of the priesthood and from the traditional centres of worship, but his decree had deeper religious significance too. Taken in conjunction with his name change, it is possible that the move to Amarna
Amarna
was also meant as a signal of Akhenaten's symbolic death and rebirth. It may also have coincided with the death of his father and the end of the coregency. In addition to constructing a new capital in honor of Aten, Akhenaten also oversaw the construction of some of the most massive temple complexes in ancient Egypt, including one at Karnak
Karnak
and one at Thebes, close to the old temple of Amun.

Detail of funerary stela of Amenemhat. The name of God
God
Amun
Amun
was erased by Akhenaten's agents. Limestone, painted. From Egypt, early 18thh Dynasty. The Burrell Collection, Glasgow

In the ninth year of his reign (1344/1342 BC), Akhenaten
Akhenaten
declared a more radical version of his new religion, declaring Aten
Aten
not merely the supreme god of the Egyptian pantheon
Egyptian pantheon
but the only God
God
of Egypt, with himself as the sole intermediary between the Aten
Aten
and the Egyptian people. Key features of Atenism
Atenism
included a ban on idols and other images of the Aten, with the exception of a rayed solar disc in which the rays (commonly depicted ending in hands) appear to represent the unseen spirit of Aten. Aten
Aten
was addressed by Akhenaten
Akhenaten
in prayers, such as the Great Hymn to the Aten: "O Sole God
God
beside whom there is none". Aten's name is also written differently after the ninth year of the Pharaoh's rule to emphasise the radicalism of the new regime. Aten, instead of being written with the symbol of a rayed solar disc, now became spelled phonetically. The details of Atenist theology are still unclear. The exclusion of all but one god and the prohibition of idols was a radical departure from Egyptian tradition, but most scholars see Akhenaten
Akhenaten
as a practitioner of monolatry rather than monotheism, as he did not actively deny the existence of other gods. He simply refrained from worshiping any but Aten. It is known that Atenism
Atenism
did not attribute divinity only to Aten. Akhenaten
Akhenaten
continued the cult of the Pharaoh, proclaiming himself the son of Aten
Aten
and encouraging the Egyptian people to worship him.[4] The Egyptian people were to worship Akhenaten, and only Akhenaten
Akhenaten
and Nefertiti
Nefertiti
could worship Aten
Aten
directly.[5] Contrast with traditional Egyptian religion[edit]

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v t e

Akhenaten
Akhenaten
carried out a radical program of religious reform. For about twenty years, he largely supplanted the age-old beliefs and practices of the Egyptian state religion, and deposed its religious hierarchy, headed by the powerful priesthood of Amun
Amun
at Thebes. For fifteen centuries, the Egyptians had worshiped an extended family of gods and goddesses, each of which had its own elaborate system of priests, temples, shrines and rituals. A key feature of the cults was the veneration of images and statues of the gods, which were worshipped in the dark confines of the temples. The pinnacle of the religious hierarchy was the Pharaoh, both king and living god. Administration of the Egyptian kingdom was thus inextricably bound up with and largely controlled by the power and influence of the priests and scribes. Akhenaten's reforms cut away both the philosophical and economic bases of priestly power, abolishing the cults of all other deities and, with them, the large and lucrative industry of sacrifices and tributes that the priests controlled. At the same time, he strengthened the role of the Pharaoh. Dominic Montserrat, analysing the various versions of the hymns to the Aten, argues that all versions of the hymns focus on the king; he suggests that the real innovation is to redefine the relationship of god and king in a way that benefited Akhenaten, quoting a statement of Egyptologist John Baines: " Amarna
Amarna
religion was a religion of god and king, or even of king first and then god".[6][7] Initially, Akhenaten
Akhenaten
presented Aten
Aten
to the Egyptian people as a variant of the familiar supreme deity Amun-Ra (itself the result of an earlier rise to prominence of the cult of Amun, resulting in Amun becoming merged with the sun god Ra), in an attempt to put his ideas in a familiar religious context. Aten
Aten
is the name given to the solar disc, and the full title of Akhenaten's god was Ra-Horus, who rejoices in the horizon in his name of the light which is in the sun disc. (That is the title of the god as it appears on numerous stelae, placed to mark the boundaries of Akhenaten's new capital at Akhetaten.) However, in the ninth year of his reign Akhenaten
Akhenaten
declared a more radical version of his new religion by declaring Aten
Aten
not merely the supreme god but the only god, and Akhenaten
Akhenaten
was the son of Aten
Aten
was the only intermediary between the Aten
Aten
and his people.[8] He even staged the ritual regicide of Amun, and ordered the defacing of Amun's temples throughout Egypt. Key features of Atenism
Atenism
included a ban on idols and other images of the Aten, with the exception of a rayed solar disc in which the rays, commonly depicted as ending in hands, appear to represent the unseen spirit of Aten. New temples were constructed in which the Aten
Aten
was worshipped in the open sunlight rather than in dark temple enclosures, as the old gods had been. Although idols were banned, even in people's homes, they were typically replaced by functionally equivalent representations of Akhenaten
Akhenaten
and his family venerating the Aten
Aten
and receiving the ankh (breath of life) from him. The radicalisation of the ninth year, including spelling Aten
Aten
phonetically instead of using the rayed solar disc, may be a determination on the part of Akhenaten
Akhenaten
to dispel a probable misconception among the common people that Aten
Aten
was really a type of sun god like Ra. Instead, the idea was reinforced that such representations were representations above all of concepts, of Aten's universal presence, not of physical beings or things. Amarna
Amarna
art[edit] Main article: Amarna
Amarna
art Styles of art that flourished during the brief period are markedly different from other Egyptian art. They bear a variety of affectations, from elongated heads to protruding stomachs, exaggerated ugliness and the beauty of Nefertiti. Significantly, for the only time in the history of Egyptian royal art, Akhenaten's family was depicted in a decidedly naturalistic manner. It is clearly shown displaying affection. Images of Akhenaten
Akhenaten
and Nefertiti
Nefertiti
usually depict the Aten
Aten
prominently above that pair, with the hands of the Aten
Aten
closest to each offering Ankhs. Unusually for New Kingdom art, the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
and his wife are depicted as approximately equal in size, with Nefertiti's image used to decorate the lesser Aten
Aten
temple at Amarna. That may suggest that she also had a prominent official role in Aten
Aten
worship. Artistic representations of Akhenaten
Akhenaten
usually give him an unusual appearance, with slender limbs, a protruding belly and wide hips. Other leading figures of the Amarna
Amarna
period, both royal and otherwise, are also shown with some of these features, suggesting a possible religious connotation, especially as some sources suggest that private representations of Akhenaten, as opposed to official art, show him as quite normal. It is also suggested by Bob Brier, in his book "The Murder of Tutankhamen", that the family suffered from Marfan's syndrome, which is known to cause elongated features, which may explain Akhenaten's appearance. Decline[edit] Crucial evidence about the latter stages of Akhenaten's reign was furnished by discovery of the so-called Amarna
Amarna
Letters. Believed to have been thrown away by scribes after being transferred to papyrus, the letters comprise a priceless cache of incoming clay message tablets sent from imperial outposts and foreign allies. The letters suggest that Akhenaten
Akhenaten
was obsessed with his new religion, and his neglect of matters of state was causing disorder across the massive Egyptian empire. The governors and kings of subject domains wrote to beg for gold and complained of being snubbed and cheated. Also discovered were reports that a major plague pandemic was spreading across the ancient Near East. This pandemic appears to have claimed the life of Akhenaten's main wife (Nefertiti) and several of his six daughters, which may have contributed to a declining interest on the part of Akhenaten
Akhenaten
in governing effectively. With Akhenaten's death, the Aten
Aten
cult he had founded almost immediately fell out of favor due to pressures from the Priesthood of Amun. Tutankhaten, who succeeded him at 8 (with Akhenaten's old vizier, Ay, as regent) changed his name to Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun
in the third year of his reign (1330 BC) and abandoned Akhetaten, the city falling into ruin. The temples that Akhenaten
Akhenaten
had built from talaat blocks, including the temple at Thebes, were disassembled by later pharaohs, reused as a source of building materials and decorations for their own temples, and inscriptions to Aten
Aten
were defaced. Finally, Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun, and Ay were removed from the official lists of Pharaohs, which instead reported that Amenhotep III
Amenhotep III
was immediately succeeded by Horemheb. Link to Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism[edit] See also: Akhenaten
Akhenaten
§  Akhenaten
Akhenaten
and Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism Because of the monolatristic or monotheistic character of Atenism, a link to Judaism
Judaism
(or other monotheistic religions) has been suggested by various writers. For example, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
assumed Akhenaten
Akhenaten
to be the pioneer of monotheistic religion and Moses
Moses
as Akhenaten's follower in his book Moses
Moses
and Monotheism
Monotheism
(see also Osarseph). The Egyptian
The Egyptian
author Ahmed Osman went as far as to claim that Moses
Moses
and Akhenaten
Akhenaten
were the same person. Atenism
Atenism
in modern culture[edit]

American composer Philip Glass
Philip Glass
composed a grand opera about Akhenaten which sets texts from the Amarna
Amarna
letters and Hymn to the Aten. Finnish author Mika Waltari
Mika Waltari
used the idea of Aten
Aten
and Atenism
Atenism
in his historical novel The Egyptian. New Zealand-Canadian author Pauline Gedge did the same in her 1984 historical novel The Twelfth Transforming. "Son of the Sun", a song by the symphonic metal band Therion, is critical of Atenism
Atenism
and monotheism. In the video game The Secret World, the Aten
Aten
is a malevolent supernatural force that wants to destroy Egypt, and Akhenaten
Akhenaten
is a victim of its mind control.

Literature[edit]

Aldred, Cyril, Akhenaten, King of Egypt
Egypt
ISBN 0-500-05048-1 Mahfouz, Naguib, Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth ISBN 0-385-49909-4 Redford, Donald B., Akhenaten: The Heretic King ISBN 0-691-00217-7 Reeves, Nicholas, Akhenaton: Egypt's False Prophet ISBN 0-500-28552-7 Prokopiou, Angelos, Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Akhenaton Theatr. Play. 1st ed. 1961 Athens. ISBN 960-7327-66-7 Works related to Great Hymn to Aten
Aten
at Wikisource

See also[edit]

Solar deity

References[edit]

^ Rosalie David, Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt, Facts on File Inc., 1998. p.124 ^ Rosalie David, op. cit., p.124 ^ Rosalie David, op. cit., p.125 ^ "Ancient Egypt
Egypt
Gods: The Aten". www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-19.  ^ Hart, George (2005). The Routledge dictionary of Egyptian gods and goddesses (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-415-34495-1.  ^ Montserrat, Dominic (2002). Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egyp. Routledge. p. 40. ISBN 978-0415301862.  ^ John Baines (1998). "The Dawn of the Amarna
Amarna
Age". In David O'Connor, Eric Cline. Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign. University of Michigan Press. p. 281. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) ^ Reeves, Nicholas, Akhenaton: Egypt's False Prophet ISBN 0-500-28552-7, pg 146

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v t e

Amarna
Amarna
Period

Pharaohs

Akhenaten Smenkhkare Neferneferuaten Tutankhamun Ay

Royal family

Tiye Nefertiti Kiya "The Younger Lady" Tey

Children

Meritaten Meketaten Ankhesenamun Neferneferuaten
Neferneferuaten
Tasherit Neferneferure Setepenre Meritaten
Meritaten
Tasherit Ankhesenpaaten Tasherit

Nobles Officials

Mutbenret Aperel Bek Huya Meryre II Nakhtpaaten Panehesy Parennefer Penthu Thutmose

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Akhetaten Karnak KV55 KV62 Amarna
Amarna
Tombs

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Amarna
Amarna
letters Amarna
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succession Aten Atenism Dakhamunz

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